Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rampant HSR NIMBYism In Palo Alto Council Race

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

Once upon a time, Palo Alto was seen as a leader in sustainable planning in California. City leaders expressed and acted upon support for bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly communities, and backed mass transportation solutions from Caltrain to high speed rail (which the current council backed when they endorses Proposition 1A last year).

Unfortunately, the vocal NIMBYs in that community have begun to jeopardize the city's position of leadership in support of sustainable and forward-looking policies. Led by those who continue to sow the misinformation about HSR acting as some kind of "Berlin Wall," Palo Alto is in danger of opposing high speed rail outright, and in the process fatally undermining Caltrain - and therefore, fatally undermining the city's own stated commitments to mass transit.

This November, Palo Alto voters will fill five seats on the city's nine-member council. Unsurprisingly, high speed rail is a major issue in the race, as evidenced by this report of a recent candidates' forum:

"I was opposed to high-speed rail in November, and I voted no on the bond," candidate Leon Leong said, referring to state Proposition 1A, which launched the rail plans with $10 billion in funding. "I believe the city needs to budget funds for litigation, for advocacy in Sacramento, hiring lobbyists, as well as in the federal government, to either get the route changed or get it stopped in San Jose."

The comment drew a burst of cheers from an audience that had been asked to hold its applause. For most of the two-hour forum at the Palo Alto Art Center, sponsored by a group of Palo Alto neighborhood associations, the crowd obeyed. Not when it came to high-speed rail....

Leong and a few others said the city should be pushing back harder against the California High Speed Rail Authority, the board charged with implementing the plans.

Tim Gray, who lives along the tracks, said, "I've got my back against the rail and I'm going to keep on fighting. I'm like a mother bear with her cubs."

What exactly does Leong want the city to do? Find some grounds for another frivolous lawsuit? People like Leong and Gray haven't accepted the fact that high speed rail is going to happen, and think that it is best to waste everyone's time - and the city's money - battling it instead of determining the best way to live with it.

Gray's position is even more amusing. He's not protecting "his cubs" - he thinks he is protecting his property values, as if government existed for that purpose alone and that everyone else in Palo Alto should sacrifice their need for affordable, sustainable transportation in order to pad his assets. Ironically, HSR would boost his property values - unless there's a huge pool of buyers out there eagerly awaiting the chance to live next to a railroad with loud horns and spewing diesel fumes at all hours of the day.

John Hackmann pulled out an oversized white poster board on which he had written in magic marker, "No to rail wall." Like Leong, he said he voted against the bond measure, as did candidate Chris Gaither.

If Palo Alto residents believe that the ability to write on a poster board is qualification to serve on city council, well, OK...

Karen Holman said an underground high-speed rail line might not be much better, even if the city could afford it.

"Opposing the above-ground option is a no-brainer," she said. But an underground rail line comes with its own problems, she said, including possible eminent domain takings due to construction and conflicts with freight trains that now use the Caltrain tracks.

Holman touted her experience on the city's planning and transportation commission, saying it prepared her to pick apart environmental reports. The report approved by the high-speed rail authority last year is "not a serious document," she said.

Holman is actually raising a good point here - a tunnel is no panacea for Palo Alto. It would likely mean greater eminent domain takings (whereas an above-grade solution will produce hardly any at all in Palo Alto), and it would indeed cause conflicts with freight trains that could hinder or block the city's ability to replace the at-grade railroad with development to help pay for the tunnel.

On the other hand, Holman shows her lack of familiarity with environmental and mass transit planning when she calls the statewide program EIR "not a serious document." For someone who touts her experience on the planning and transportation committee, this is a serious charge to make - and it is utterly ridiculous. The judge in Atherton v. CHSRA found that the EIR conformed to CEQA requirements, with the exception of the matter of the UPRR ROW between San José and Gilroy. For a massive statewide project EIR, that's actually a pretty good performance in court.

One candidate took some credit for publicizing the rail plan's potential pitfalls before most others, including the city council, saw any cause for concern. Nancy Shepherd pointed out that she hosted a heavily attended meeting for her house in the Southgate neighborhood, a meeting some say sparked Palo Alto's activist movement on the issue.

"I would like to see the city council play a much larger role, perhaps even hiring our own engineer" to evaluate a key upcoming environmental document, she said. That way, she said, the city would not be "hoodwinked, like we were last November when we were voting on this."

It's a shame Shepherd prefers to repeat the dishonest "hoodwinked" claim. That implies an intent to deceive which wasn't there; she should retract the accusation. Palo Alto voters had plenty of resources at their disposal, including copious amounts of local TV and print news coverage, to explain to them the details of the HSR project when they voted en masse to approve Prop 1A last November.

And that raises the real issue at stake in the Palo Alto election. It isn't a battle over HSR. It's really a battle over who will be allowed to benefit from city policies for the next several decades. It is about who gets to enjoy economic security and prosperity - and who is going to be denied those benefits.

What the anti-HSR candidates are saying to Palo Alto is that the only people who should benefit from city council policy are those who already own homes near the Caltrain corridor. Everyone else, whether homeowner or renter, young or old, student or townie, rich or poor, comes second to those privileged few, who are mobilizing to seize control of the city council.

As Michael Scanlon pointed out at the Menlo Park Town Hall and as Bob Doty reinforced at the Palo Alto teach-in, without high speed rail bringing the money to electrify Caltrain, Caltrain is not likely to survive.

It sure doesn't sound like any of these candidates are even aware of that fact. If they are, it doesn't seem as if they much care. By prioritizing their own property values over the needs of everyone else in Palo Alto, they're happy to consign other city residents to dependence on ever-rising oil prices and automobile congestion, as well as condemning the city to continue to suffer from the deadly toll of at-grade tracks.

Palo Alto, like California, stands at a crossroads. It has two basic choices. The first is what the anti-HSR candidates propose: preservation of the 20th century model of urban living, dependent on the automobile. It is an obsolete model, one directly responsible for the present economic crisis and guaranteed to produce economic stagnation and immiseration as fewer and fewer people can make ends meet in a place dependent on oil and lacking sustainable methods to move people around.

The second choice is what other visionaries, including some of the council candidates, desire for Palo Alto. It is the realization of the city's environmental and smart planning projects begun in recent decades but now in serious jeopardy at this election. It is a choice that would produce a sustainable city, much less dependent on oil, with a vibrant downtown, a community where the railroad is a permeable yet safe feature instead of a deadly and divisive barrier. It is a city where economic opportunity is available to the many and not to the few.

I have no idea how this will turn out. NIMBYs are notoriously successful at drawing attention and making themselves look more numerous than they actually are. Palo Alto DID vote for Prop 1A in large numbers, and the recent efforts to provide sensible HSR planning have been very well-attended by residents eager to find a way to make HSR work for Palo Alto. Perhaps those who want a better future for Palo Alto will outnumber those who want to abandon that future so that a small group of people can enjoy the benefits of the present for a couple more years.

We'll know the answer in November.

107 comments:

Anonymous said...

Trust me! I won't loose one minute of sleep knowing that SOME (key word being SOME) in tiny P.A. don't want HSR/Electrified Caltrain. And let's not loose sight of the fact that SOME candidates/citizens of tiny P.A. DO WANT HSR; they just want it done right.

So let the NIMBY's cry all they want; in the end, it will be NIMBY Palo Alto versus San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Washington DC and the people of California as a whole. Gee, guess who's gonna win? ;o)

dave said...

Look at the Palo Alto Nimby's "working" back in Feb, March.

It's sad that they had to brainwash their kids to support their cause. These kids don't know that the train will make their lives easier in the future. Very sad!

Anonymous said...

Candidates need to show fire in their belly, a readiness to "fight" for the citizens of Palo Alto. What better bogeyman than HSR? It's a classic David & Goliath story. The Man is stickin' it to Palo Alto, and something must be done!

It's a nice, safe escape from more controversial issues in Palo Alto, like union pay or tree stumps.

As usual, cooler heads will prevail right after the election, and the city council really won't have much say about all this.

dave said...

Palo Alto knew what was going to happen with HSR on the peninsula and all the possibility's.

Video

They cannot lie and say that they didn't know! The only reason they are "opposed" to it is because a few loud, annoying, grumpy people say so and then try to change the route to Altamont.

Video

You say the HSR project is politically motivated, I say your no better. This was expected in that they (your local politicians) are here to save the day, and also running for a chair of your local govm't. What a coincidence!

P.S, I don't beleive in coincidences!

Evan said...

This is a really good analysis of Palo Alto's stance on high speed rail. And as someone who grew up in Palo Alto, works in Palo Alto and yet can't afford to live in Palo Alto, I knew the truths well.

Many Palo Altans stand firmly against high-speed rail or new housing developers, not realizing that they're pricing out their children and making Palo Alto a LESS attractive place for jobs in the next few decades.

I take Caltrain every day, and I shudder to think what Palo Alto would do without it. Every day, thousands of people stream out of the Palo Alto station, heading to work. Imagine, if Caltrain didn't exist, how much worse parking would be — how many more garages would be needed and how many more street parking spots down to Embarcadero would be taken. And how quickly companies would move away, as their employees found it much harder to get to work.

I wish, I hope that my fellow Palo Altans will think carefully, and realize that what they're opposing is a project that will secure Palo Alto's future and lessen the noise, safety hazards and urban disconnect caused by the current Caltrain design.

Board Watcher said...

@Robert
That implies an intent to deceive which wasn't there; she should retract the accusation. Palo Alto voters had plenty of resources at their disposal, including copious amounts of local TV and print news coverage, to explain to them the details of the HSR project when they voted en masse to approve Prop 1A last November.

When an issue like this comes up again and again and again by residents, city councils and even state representatives, it’s time to take a closer look at why. Here’s just one possible source of the confusion: the promotional video clip of HSR going through the Peninsula . It’s misleading (not to be confused with inaccurate) because:

1) It starts with a view of 101, leading one to believe that the alignment is next to 101.
2) It runs along the bay, leading one to believe that it’ll be built away from city centers and along the bay.
3) Although it does show a HST overtaking Caltrain, most people won’t register that it’s to be built along the entire Caltrain corridor because most people associate Caltrain as running through the center of the Peninsula.
4) Most people think of Caltrain running west of 101 which is west of the bay. In the final portion of the clip it appears that HSR is on the bay side of 101.
5) The stretch of Caltrain that’s situated along the bay is a 2 mile stretch – hardly representative of the 50 mile corridor.

NIMBYs are notoriously successful at drawing attention and making themselves look more numerous than they actually are.

There were close to 1000 comments included in the SJ-SF Scoping Comments Report; approximately 500 of them were from Palo Alto. My hunch is that they’re not all alike, and that at least a few – if not many or most – are driven by more complex issues than what fits neatly into a NIMBY label.

Palo Alto, like California, stands at a crossroads. It has two basic choices.

Nah. A crossroads is when you’re limited to just 2 choices, which is exactly how you continued your thought. You may want for there to be only 2 choices – it certainly makes it easier to pick out the bad guys - but this is not an either-or situation. Forcing it into 2 choices is the equivalent of saying you either follow my vision as stated or doom will befall you. There’s plenty of space in between for reasonable people to explore. I get the sense that this is what Palo Alto is in the process of doing. More power to them!

Rafael said...

@ Board Watcher -

"the promotional video clip of HSR going through the Peninsula [is] misleading"

The video accurately represents the planned situation between Sierra Point and Bayshore up in Brisbane. You can clearly see the trains diving under 101 at the beginning of the clip and then running west of the lagoon.

Newlands & Co. is based in Portland, Oregon. Quite possibly, someone at CHSRA who is not from the Bay Area told them to call it "SF South Bay" because you know, Brisbane is south of SF.

Lack of quality control at CHSRA? Absolutely, thanks to folks like Arnold Schwarzenegger and David Crane they're running on a skeleton staff of 11 chiefs and zero Indians over there. With everyone focused on strategery, no-one is doing the humdrum work of dotting the i's and crossing the t's.

A nefarious plot to deceive the burghers of Palo Alto? Hardly.

Besides, if anyone casts his or her vote on a project this large solely on the basis of 36 seconds of eye candy, then IMHO they deserve everything that's coming to them.

Rafael said...

@ Robert Cruickshank -

"The judge in Atherton v. CHSRA found that the EIR conformed to CEQA requirements, with the exception of the matter of the UPRR ROW between San José and Gilroy. For a massive statewide project EIR, that's actually a pretty good performance in court."

(A) The court found in favor of plaintiffs on four counts, not one.

(B) Declaring a route to be preferred when the company you intend to purchase the requisite land from informs you in writing - late in the game but still in time - that it's point blank not interested in selling, that's not "good performance".

(C) When that same company further instructs you to communicate its decision to other stakeholders and you don't because it would make you look bad, that's not "good performance", either.

Unless and until CHSRA actually acquires a ROW down to Gilroy, its preference for Pacheco Pass is no more than ambition. It's a little like Obama saying he'll close Guantanamo or repeal DADT. Enough with the promises already, actions speak louder than words.

Rafael said...

O/T: Governor Schwarzenegger has vetoed bill restricting I-710 extension to a tunnel option.

Let's hope whoever succeeds him will be equally strict regarding railroad tunnels through Anaheim and/or Palo Alto. It's not like Parsons Brinkerhoff is ever going to say "No, we can't afford that".

You want your transportation infrastructure underground? Plan ahead, change your zoning laws and start constructing lots of mid-to-high rise buildings. See SF for details.

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of grandstanding jokers..like that railroad in beautiful PA just popped up last week or that Caltrains plans are an almost match to HSRs And really this post will be just another soap box they can stand on and yell fire and "we are victims"

DBX said...

You could just do what the British did with London on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. It was originally supposed to go through the southeast suburbs, to the terminal they actually got around to building at Waterloo. They kicked up a huge fuss. Meanwhile, Arup consulting almost single-handedly lobbied for routing it through the Medway Towns and East London--areas that economically needed it much more. And Arup eventually got solid support from the Kent County planning department and the UK Department of Transport.

So, through Medway and East London to St. Pancras it went, with intermediate stops at Ebbsfleet and Stratford in the heart of areas that have been economically depressed for years.

The kicker is that all the southeast London NIMBYs suddenly realized their existing Waterloo-Paris service, which struggled to keep schedules on the British side on commuter tracks because of the delay the NIMBYs caused in building a high speed line, might be in danger. They lobbied to keep Waterloo open as well, only for Eurostar to tell them, no, we're NOT running two hubs in London for a bunch of NIMBYs.

And here's the kicker; Ashford International, the intermediate station and major local hub that was southeast London's fallback for connecting to Paris, had its cross-channel service slashed by two thirds.

So the south London NIMBYs have to brave the city subways to get across the city to St Pancras, or their traffic-choked suburban roads to drive to Ebbsfleet with its vast parking lots, to get on the train. No more convenient and frequent commuter rail connection for them, now that once you get to Waterloo, there's no Eurostar at all, and once you get to Ashford, there are only three a day.

The moral of the story for Palo Alto? Be careful what you wish far. The East Bay is always available.

Board Watcher said...

The video accurately represents the planned situation between Sierra Point and Bayshore up in Brisbane.

That’s correct. It certainly is an accurate representation of that tiny atypical segment of the Caltrain corridor. If you’d quoted the rest of my sentence you’d see that I make a distinction between “accurate” and “misleading”.

But you and I and the HSR promoters all know that if they simulated a more representative slice of the corridor they’d lose the votes of whatever city they chose and probably take collateral damage from neighboring cities as well. They took the most photogenic slice – far away from any city centers or residential neighborhoods – and glorified it for the Prop 1A campaign. And why not? It’s accurate. Wouldn’t you do the same?

Rafael said...

@ Board Watcher -

I see no reason to ascribe sinister motives to CHSRA wrt the videos. They decided they needed a clip of some portion along the peninsula. At the program EIS/EIR level, there weren't many where they could already be fairly certain of the vertical alignment. Brisbane was one, Sunnyvale another. Perhaps they decided Brisbane would look prettier and/or cheaper to model in 3D. Remember, they were on a starvation budget at the time.

There was no way they could have shown Palo Alto properly at the time, because they knew multiple vertical alignments would have to be studied there at the project EIS/EIR level. The trouble with eye candy is that to Joe Average it looks as if all the decisions had already been made, an impression they wanted - and still want - to avoid.

By now, there is an alternatives analysis video showing a couple of elevated options, an open trench and a tunnel. They deliberately jumped back and forth between the alternatives in that one to underline that they haven't made a decision yet.

Tony D. said...

Board Watcher,
You're really reaching in trying to prove your "we were all tricked" point of view. There's absolutely nothing wrong with admitting that you're wrong; IT'S OK!

Rafael,
Just stop with the Pacheco is nothing more than "ambition" nonsense! ROW WILL be secured from SJ to Gilroy, and UPRR won't have to figure into the equation. Will probably be cheaper to acquire to; won't have to deal with possible extortion by UPRR.

This morning's Merc discusses HSR through the Gardner/Willow Glenn neighborhoods of SJ. The City of SJ has proposed a possible 3-track alignment through this area; two for HSR and one for UPRR/Caltrain. This idea got me thinking; why not do the same on the Peninsula?

ELIMINATE CALTRAIN AS WE KNOW IT?!

Controversial? Yes. But hear me out. If you just had HSR and UPRR from SF to SJ, you could limit the entire right of way to 3-tracks; with passing tracks at stations for express HSR. You would also be able to eliminate most Caltrain stops (to many anyway!) and consolidate them in new stations along the Peninsula; perhaps adding HSR-Local stations (along with currently planned stops) in Redwood City/PA, Mtn. View, Sunnyvale/Santa Clara, and Morgan Hill. Money now designated for Caltrain could be used for HSR trenching/tunnel purposes along tight spots of the ROW.

While I'm ardent anti-NIMBY, one thing I do agree with is that in some ways Caltrain from SF to Gilroy would be redundant with HSR. Do we really need both?

matt said...

@ Board Watcher

There was a huge link to a Google map of the preferred alignment on the front page of the CHSRA website. Your fault if you did not look at where it was before you voted. That video, on the other hand, was more difficult to find and assuming that it will not go by your house because a 3d mock up showed it by the bay was foolish.

Anonymous said...

Palo Alto & Co. have every right to fight this piece of dreck that is Bechtel's version of hsr in California. Too bad the public couldn't have have stopped them when they sabotaged BART with Indian broad gauge.

Bianca said...

Tony D., you seem to be conflating two entirely different things. HSR is not commuter rail. HSR can't replace commuter rail, nor would we want it to. Eliminating Caltrain stops or consolidating them is exactly backwards. For HSR to be a success, we have to encourage more transit, not less. All those Caltrain stations that are in walkable downtowns all along the Peninsula are necessary both for the well-being of the Peninsula, with or without HSR, but also will serve to bring passengers to HSR stations. Someone in Belmont can walk to their station, hop on a local and cross the platform to board an HSR train in Palo Alto or Redwood City or wherever the station is located. Getting rid of Caltrain just makes the Peninsula even more ridiculously car-centric than it already is.

The money for Caltrain comes from three counties: Santa Clara, San Mateo, and San Francisco. If Caltrain went away, that money would not be going to HSR.

An electrified, grade-separated Caltrain will do more to boost property values over the long term than just about anything else I can think of. Plus, it will be able to serve more passengers, at greater speed and less travel time, than it currently is able to. Why on earth would we kill that?

Anonymous said...

Keep pushing this berm nonsense and you will end up with the hsr being cut back to San Jose.

And then BART will start a full court press to replace Caltrain. You are underestimating BART's impeccable political connectons

Wait and see. Kopp has been advocating this all along.

Tony D. said...

Bianca,
Thanks for responding to my post.

Just an out of the box idea. I agree that Caltrain service is important to many on the Peninsula like yourself; even to many citizens of Palo Alto and MP/Atherton. So what needs to happen...

THOSE IN FAVOR OF CALTRAIN ENHANCEMENTS AND HSR NEED TO RISE UP TO THIS NIMBY B.S.! Stop being quite and on the sidelines and counter the small/loud/whinny constituency that has the ear of local politicians and the press!

Board Watcher said...

@Rafael, Matt, Tony D.

Don’t kill the messenger. I’m trying to make sense of why so many people were caught by surprise. I wasn’t one of them. If you read my posts a little more carefully – without injecting sinister motives on my part – you’d see that I explained a plausible reason for the HSR promotional team to choose that beautiful little segment of the Caltrain corridor. They had an objective – drum up local support for HSR and get Prop 1A passed – and they carried it out successfully. They’d be fools if they chose, oh, let’s say a little segment through the narrowest parts of Palo Alto, for their HSR poster child.

BTW, that segment was frequently used by the media to show what HSR could look like going through the Peninsula. This is what voters were exposed to. Most voters were NOT aware of the CHSRA’s website prior to the election. As Anna Eshoo said, she’d be laughed at if she used “it was on our website” as a means for informing the public.

It was an understandable segment choice, but very misleading. Let’s stick to that point rather than pick each other apart, shall we?

Anonymous said...

Its odd, and rather blatantly incongruous, that the opposition on the Peninsula is regularly dismissed as a small and inconsequention group of Nimbys - yet here we have Robert - again - ranting on about them. So much as to insert himself into a local city council race? its weird, at best. Spooky at worse.

Robert, you were right about one thing - Palo Alto's history of leadership in sustainability issues. And it appears that many of the well educated, sustainability minded, and politically involved folk of that town are waking up now to truth, instead of the lies that CHSRA has been peddling.

For one, perhaps they realize that to suggest that bicycle and pedestrian friendly, and mass transit oriented, dense TOD is somehow served by and served ONLY by HSR - is pure false.

In fact, cross state trips don't have to, and should not be running on the ground through neighborhoods and schoolyards, an that's something even the most daft among you can readily recognize. And TOD and mass transit serves a local need, which is the MAIN source of pollution and overcrowded transportation corridors, and none of that is served a wink by HSR.

So now the soon to be former city council that was lead around by the nose by developers, and blindly took the bait and endorsed Prop 1A last, year, (the same city council which by the way are known for blunder after blunder in the city of Palo Alto) are now going to be put out on the street - sent back to their day jobs if you will - and the new guard is being called to task to explain their REAL positions and their REAL plans wrt HSR.

And Robert - this discussion of the facts of the HSR matters, combined with the inevitable political turnover that happens like clockwork in this country, scares you, as it is the bellweather for what is going to occur in every city across the HSR path, and as it does, the HSR support dwindles, and is replaced with a group of city, county, state and federal level politicians who are now on to you. (The may not be on to every scam, but this one they are now on to.) So your plush fantasy train is no longer flying under the radar.

I must say its rather disingenuous to complain about it at this point, when the CHSRA specifically singled out this stretch of NIMBY land to target for HSR pathway - knowing full well the local passion for involvment, the fierce nimby sentiments (on everything from Caltrain, to building permits, to schools, to trees). Its EXACTLY what CHSRA bargained for, and now they get it. What's all the complaining??? You should be Happy that exactly what you expected all along is now coming to fruition - a vocal and involved local government challenging your plans to the brink of failure, and political pressure that will only continue to mount as the years roll by on the project.

Choosing a more appropriate route, and one less fraught with these oppositions, was not in your vocabulary, and still isn't, so don't worry, be happy. Palo Alto will remain on the cutting edge and be the first ones to show that the CHSRA emporer has no clothes on.

Jarrett Mullen said...

@Board Watcher

Perhaps they chose that section for the animation because they were pretty certain that's what the final alternative would be. The area pictured between Bayshore and South San Francisco already has a huge right of way, complete grade separations, and goes through an industrial area. If they showed a video of the alignment through Palo Alto on retained fill, that wouldn't be a very accurate depiction of the various alternatives that must be considered. If anything, a video showcasing the preliminary alignment through Palo Alto would be misleading.

Peter said...

@ Tony D

Caltrain serves a number of stations between Gilroy and San Jose that HSR won't. The people who ride Caltrain from Morgan Hill, for example, would likely just drive to work, instead of driving to San Jose and taking Caltrain from there.

Travis ND said...

Anon 9:52
"Palo Alto & Co. have every right to fight this piece of dreck that is Bechtel's version of hsr in California."

Do you have a Bechtel fetish or something?

Anon 10:05
"Keep pushing this berm nonsense and you will end up with the hsr being cut back to San Jose."

You would kill a $40 billion project that would serve tens of millions of people over a completely practical, optimally engineered berm?

How petty are you people?

Board Watcher said...

You would kill a $40 billion project that would serve tens of millions of people over a completely practical, optimally engineered berm?

Relax. I think they’re referring to saving a few billion by putting the remaining eggs in the Caltrain basket.

Bianca said...

Board Watcher said: Relax. I think they’re referring to saving a few billion by putting the remaining eggs in the Caltrain basket.

No, they are not. They are trying to kill the entire project, and they are being completely disingenuous about it.

Let's be clear: High Speed Rail has to serve the city of San Francisco. Period. No service to downtown San Francisco, no High Speed Rail for anyone. There is no point in building it without serving the one city that has a higher population density and is more transit- and pedestrian-friendly than any other in the state.

Furthermore, let's keep in mind that the new Transbay Terminal that we've spent so much time discussing in is the district of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Anyone who thinks that Nancy Pelosi is going to allow one penny of Federal funding to go to a California high speed rail project that doesn't serve her district is deluding themselves. But the people proposing to stop HSR in San Jose aren't deluding themselves: they want to kill the entire project, they just don't want to admit it.

NONIMBYS said...

Palo Alto is not cutting edge!! its the best example of how nimbys and other rich types can cause massive costs and delays because the Media gives these people WAY to much air/print time..AND voters approved it in PA..but loud mouths have spooked the council..WELL too bad the tracks are there and are going to rebuilt..

Peter said...

Very true Bianca.

AndyDuncan said...

NIMBYs in Palo Alto seriously need to wake up and realize that HSR is going through their city and that they need to be campaigning to get the station there too.

Palo Alto makes more sense for a station than Redwood City, but if Palo Alto doesn't get on board they're going to get the train tracks and no station.

Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

jim said...

Well, if it winds up not getting built there are upsides to that too. I mean there's always trade offs.

AndyDuncan said...

"Well, if it winds up not getting built there are upsides to that too. I mean there's always trade offs."

sure, but the metrolink station is going to need to get rebuilt. the question is really whether or not HSR trains stop there or not, and how big the station is.

For all the fear of lowering property values, losing out on a HSR connection to the rest of the state would be a bigger loss than losing all the back yards in Atherton.

AndyDuncan said...

Er, caltrain, not metrolink. Socal on the brain.

jim said...

I heard this is a sinister plan to give socal a way to steal our water.

AndyDuncan said...

"I heard this is a sinister plan to give socal a way to steal our water."

It is. I plan on making twice-daily trips with nothing but 5-gallon bottles of sweet, sweet, Delta Farm Runoff for luggage.

mike said...

I’m trying to make sense of why so many people were caught by surprise.

What's to make sense of? There's a small contingent of people that didn't do their homework and now are complaining about it, plain and simple. But even if they had changed their votes, it wouldn't have altered the election outcome.

Tony D. said...

Nice post Mike,

"I'm trying to make sense of why so many people were caught by surprise."

BW: you, like other NIMBY's, keep throwing out this nonsense without any proof or facts to back it up. No poll or survey results. Why? BECAUSE WHAT YOU SAY IS FALSE! (No, 100 people screaming at a town hall meeting or 1,000 negative comments on an EIR don't count.)

Look, like the Sun rising every morning (even on rainy days like today), here's the truth once and for all: Prop. 1A passed, a vast majority of Bay Area/Peninsula residents want HSR (see results of Nov. 08 elections), the "Big Dogs" of Bay Area politics (Feinstein, Boxer, Pelosi, Newsom, Reed, Guardino, SVLG, etc.) want HSR...and a small group of wealthy crybaby's from PA and MP/Atherton aren't going to stop the bullet train. ENOUGH ALREADY!

By the way Robert, John Willfolk of the Mercury News stated today that HSR will travel at 220 mph through the Gardner/Willow Glenn neighborhoods of San Jose. There should be Penal Code violation for blatant lying by the press.

Anonymous said...

without high speed rail bringing the money to electrify Caltrain, Caltrain is not likely to survive.

Total nonsense.

HSR has plenty of merits to stand on, why resort to the same type of dishonest hyperbole that the Palo Alto NIMBY's spew?

Bianca said...

Anonymous at 3:48pm, you have a cite to back up your statement?

It's not dishonest hyperbole. Caltrain cannot expand its service without electrification, and without HSR there are not the funds to pay for electrification. Without electrification, Caltrain is stuck using slow, noisy, smelly diesel engines. Without electrification, Caltrain will not be able to meet growing demand. Without electrification, Caltrain will become an outdated, slow and obsolete system.

Bob Doty, of Caltrain/CHSRA, was asked point-blank at the High Speed Rail teach-in if Caltrain could survive without HSR, and his response was blunt: "No."

If you have sources to back up your dismissal, please share them.

YESonHSR said...

Anyone going to the CAHSR meeting in the City tonight..6-8pm?

Tony D. said...

Bianca 4:01,
You bring up an interesting point regarding Caltrain. If no HSR, which the NIMBY's want, than no Caltrain.

Is the NIMBY agenda really to rid the Peninsula of all rail service completely, even Caltrain?

Oh well, glad they're in the minority.

Anonymous said...

Bob Doty has an agenda, what else would you expect him to say? Caltrain can apply for federal funds just as easily as HSR - in fact CHSRA is bending over backwards to block Caltrain projects. And no money today doesn't mean sources of funding can not be found - just ask the CHSRA - they don't have funding today either - but that's not stopping them. Its blatantly dishonest to say Caltrain can't be incrementally improved without HSR. Its a trumped up, faked up selling point the CHSRA cooked up.

flowmotion said...

The typical Pennisula NIMBY would probably love to see CalTrain "not survive", so that argument has little appeal outside of pro-rail types.

(And actually, I find all of these appeals to higher-minded public policy kinda pointless. HSR is going through the backyard of a very wealthy area, and after all the screaming and shouting is over, they will end up paying the toll one way or another.)

YESonHSR said...

I would bet some of these people bought property years ago thinking that this line would be out of service in the future once SP got rid of there passenger business.

mike said...

Anyone going to the CAHSR meeting in the City tonight..6-8pm?

Considered it, but it didn't really sound worth it given how Clem described the San Carlos meeting (basically, if you saw the online exhibit slides, you saw what was there).

If anyone does go, s/he should ask why 4 tracks are necessary north of Bayshore. Shouldn't 3 tracks (1 outbound, 2 inbound) be sufficient given that there is only one stop between Bayshore and 4th/King (22nd St), and all outbound trains can be dispatched in the correct order (i.e., express before local)?

Anonymous said...

NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY.

There. I feel better already. I'm not a NIMBY. You are a NIMBY. You live near the tracks and you don't want more of the tracks in your back yard. That makes you a NIMBY and a bad person. I'm not a NIMBY because I don't live near the tracks and therefore, even though I don't have the track problem, I feel free to dump on people who do have this problem by calling them NIMBYs.

And you know what, it solves the problem. If I keep calling them NIMBYs long enough, they will come to understand that I am right and they are wrong.

dave said...

Bob Doty has an agenda

No, you have an agenda. To kill HSR by lieing, spreading mis-info and fearmongering.

dave said...

anonymous 4:41

yeah you are Nimby, you don't have to live next to the tracks to be a nimby. If you live in a city that the line runs through and you oppose it simply because of it, then your a nimby. Because most people consider their city to be their backyard even when it's not.

Me personally would love to have HSR in my backyard. What a view of such amazing technology. Then I can walk to the station and go anywhere in the state. I can pretty much garage and cover my car.

If you don't agree then your a fool who sits at home all day and never leaves his/her home because your bitter about the world and that it doesn't care about you.

looking on said...

Robert:

Why do you even bother to devote space to this?

Your stance has always been that there are only about 50 NIMBYs around; with such a small number, none of the HSR opposers will have a chance in the PA election.

Could it possibly be, that maybe 50 has grown to 20,000 or so?

Anonymous said...

BART has tried to usurp Caltrain for decades. You anti-NIMBY foamers have no idea who you are dealing with. BART will cost about the same as your berm(plenty)but will provide a subway. The less militant, more industrial towns will fall right on in behind PA on the BART bandwagon. Remember there has always been a sizeable contingent of BART supporters on the Peninsula. BART is a known quantity, liked despite all its many faults. The ring-the-bay idea is very appealing to the Pelosi machine, not just Kopp.

A 4-track subway in Palo Alto-Menlo Park is too expensive. Open up your minds before it is too late to a 101 alternative. It can be done, just like the Grapevine. Don 't be so fearful - that's what engineers are for.

Joey said...

A 4-track subway in Palo Alto-Menlo Park is too expensive. Open up your minds before it is too late to a 101 alternative. It can be done, just like the Grapevine. Don 't be so fearful - that's what engineers are for.

You're talking about minimizing excessive costs, and yet you're talking about 101 and the grapevine. What cave have you been living in?

On a lighter note, what the PA residents really should be doing at this point is leaving the "tunnel or GTFO" bandwagon and focusing on minimizing the impacts of a reasonable HSR solution, while maximizing the benefits (i.e. pushing sound walls, using poles rather than headspans, making sure measures are taken to minimize vibrations (probably worse for freight trains than for anything else), and possibly pushing for a HSR station in PA. It is a proven fact that CHSRA listens to communities when they are reasonable, and Palo Alto stands to benefit substantially from the benefits brought by HSR (including upgrading CalTrain), if only they'd see it.

Anonymous said...

BART could propose to cut and cover a tunnel on the Caltrain ROW in PA-Menlo Park with a temporary bus "bridge". PA et al gets a subway, rapid transit with no blight. Jujst like Berkeley. PA has no everweaning need for Caltrain nor hsr. The same holds true for all the other towns on the Peninsula.

In sum the public trusts BART more than CHSRA.

Anonymous said...

Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton and Burlingame represent a big chunk of the San Mateo electorate. Let's see what happens if a movement starts there for San Mateo County to withdraw from the Caltrain coalition and formally join BARTD.

Previously unthinkable but the intransigeance of CHSRA is radicalizing.

Anonymous said...

Looking on,
No, the 50 hasn't become 20k; maybe 100 or at most 1000.
But even if it was 20k...WHO CARES! There are over 7 million residents in the Bay Area, with 3-4 million of those residing between SF-SJ.
You gonna tell me 50, 100, 1000, or even 20k should trump the will of millions?
PLEASE!!

Dan S. said...

Anon @ 10:43 said...

In fact, cross state trips don't have to, and should not be running on the ground through neighborhoods and schoolyards, an that's something even the most daft among you can readily recognize.

I'm pretty daft, but I admit I can't recognize this obvious fact myself. Seems like cities are pretty well dotted with both neighborhoods and schoolyards, and if you want a train to get to a city center, then you're going to have to go near some of them. Thinking back to my daily Caltrain commute, Bellarmine and Paly come immediately to mind as schoolyards next to the tracks. I see nothing inherently wrong with bringing HSR to the same corridor, what's the problem exactly? Too many trains? We already have 100 trains a day being pulled with diesel locomotives with horns blaring and street crossings right next to these schools today. Is that so much better than some larger number of electric trains on grade-separated tracks? To me it tilts the other direction, honestly.

BTW, I'll just note my annoyance with all the name-calling on this thread from both "sides". Makes the "discussion" pretty much useless.

Joey said...

BART could propose to cut and cover a tunnel on the Caltrain ROW in PA-Menlo Park with a temporary bus "bridge". PA et al gets a subway, rapid transit with no blight. Jujst like Berkeley. PA has no everweaning need for Caltrain nor hsr. The same holds true for all the other towns on the Peninsula.

May I remind you that Berkley paid for their tunnel? Also tell all the commuters who currently use CalTrain that they don't need it. They can just take BART, you might say. Well may I remind you that BART is one of the most cost-inefficient transit systems around (read this). It costs huge amounts to build and maintain, due to some poor design choices that were made while the system was being conceived. Oh, and it can't run express trains, which, given the number of stops on the peninsula, seems to be more or less a necessity.

In sum the public trusts BART more than CHSRA.

How can you make such a broad generalization? Firstly, let's look at the millions of Californians who don't live in the bay area. Do you think they have any opinion of BART? Don't you think they'd settle for HSR terminating in San José and then taking a slow and inefficient rapid transit line up to SF? Now, let's look at the Bay Area. It's a well known fact that the BART to SFO project incurred many cost overruns, largely due to stupid engineering choices that were made along the way. Now let's look at San José, which is HUGELY controversial and projected to cost more than CHSRA's entire budget for the peninsula ($7b for BART to SJ vs $4.2b for HSR from SF to SJ). Even if HSR encounters cost overruns (which are unlikely if logical engineering choices are made, which so far they have been), 4-tracking the peninsula is likely to cost much less than any BART project. Given all this, how can you say that the public trusts BART more? Especially given the huge economic benefits that HSR is likely to incur on the entire state, much more than any BART project of similar cost could even hope to do.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:58,
You mean San Mateo County might withdraw from the CalTrain coalition and join the BARTD, effectively jeopardizing CalTrain and HSR, because 1,000 (at most) NIMBYS have unlimited power in getting there way?
Boy, do some of you delusionals need help or what?!

Anonymous said...

@ anon 658,
You forget that San Mateo County voted overwhelmingly in favor of Prop. 1A last year, including many from Burlingame, PA, MP, and Atherton. And no, they weren't "tricked" idiot.
Do yourself a favor: stop torturing yourself and wake up to reality, because the train is coming!

Joey said...

As much as I believe that most of the anti-HSR crowd/NIMBYs on this blog are being irrational, I don't think calling anyone an idiot will lead to anything productive.

Anonymous said...

Notice to hsr foamers: BART owns the Bay Area. PA and the Peninsula will go with the local system, not some bahn centered in Socal.

BART is joined at the hip with the Pelosi machine. You'll see. Guess who's got contracts out already?

Clem said...

CHSRA is bending over backwards to block Caltrain projects.

CHSRA has just submitted the largest ever Christmas shopping list of Caltrain projects for stimulus funding. If even half of them get funded, the bounty will be unprecedented.

Block what?

YESonHSR said...

PA and the other towns better think about that tunnel..because it just might be a tunnel..FOR HSR ONLY then you will have Caltrain still with horns altho electric powered..this was taken from the Caltrain rail program brochure on HSR item number 9

Joey said...

@Clem: I would guess that commenter was referring to the TBT/Beale St. thing, which is only one project and shouldn't really be coming from the federal HSR pot anyway.

flowmotion said...

@ Joey

Pretty sure that Anon is advocating BART precisely because he/she knows how "cost inefficient" they have been. They favor the deluxe engineering solution, such as building subways through the blue-collar low-density burbs of San Mateo and South San Francisco.

It's perfectly natural for the the typical Shallow Alto resident to wonder why San Bruno got a tunnel, yet they might be getting the concrete berm right out of the civil engineering 101 textbook.

If we were to separate the wheat from the chaff, some Palo Alto residents are pure NIBMYs, but much of this is simply loud posturing to ensure that Palo Alto gets the most mitigation possible from the CHSRA.

Daddio said...

If high speed rail is worth doing, it is worth doing right. Proponents should admit that the impact IS greater than conventional rail and deal with it. It is a fallacy to say "they already have a train r.o.w." The speeds and security requirements make this a very different animal.

Lets learn from past mistakes. The benefits of avoiding neighborhoods and natural preserves are well worth it.

Anonymous said...

Well I, and no one else, am the 3:48 anon (but I'm not Spartacus (and further, I don't like movies about gladiators, Captain Oveur)) so I'll reply to frantic Bianca. Just like we'll all almost certainly continue breathing tomorrow, Caltrain will continue with or without HSR. The proof can be found all across the country and globe, such as the similar diesel commuter rail systems in Toronto, Montreal Boston, New Jersey, Maryland, Chicago, Europe, Japan, Australia, etc. Yes, even the Eurosnobs have diesel commuter service in places, yet somehow life goes on for them without a blink. Systems there and here that, like Caltrain's Peninsula service, have operated for over a century, adapting to come what may.

There is usually more than one way to skin a cat, and there will always be some sort of rail commuter service between San Francisco and San Jose, no matter if the emotional left activists resort to their tired old techniques of "THE WORLD WILL END UNLESS WE GET OUR PRETTY GREEN ICED SUGAR COOKIES!"

mike said...

Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton and Burlingame represent a big chunk of the San Mateo electorate. Let's see what happens if a movement starts there for San Mateo County to withdraw from the Caltrain coalition and formally join BARTD.

Hmmm...are you for real or are you a closet HSR supporter trying to discredit the NIMBYs?

Anyway, Palo Alto lies in Santa Clara County, not San Mateo County. Menlo Park, Atherton, and Burlingame combine for a total of 65,000 people, which translates into only 9% of the San Mateo County population. And San Mateo County isn't too thrilled with any of its previous buy-ins with the BARTD. (Exhibit A: Capital and operating payments for the SFO Extension.) So yeah, good luck with that movement.

Anonymous said...

Palo Alto in Santa Clara? mea culpa But culturally it belongs in San Mateo.

The CHSRA's achilles heel is that they do not own the Caltrain ROW. How can they dictate terms to Caltrain(and the 3 counties that own it)if they are only tenants?

jim said...

Wow some of these posts... and I thought I was the only one who had trouble taking the right dose.



and Andy Im already a head of you, all bottles, buckets and related containers will be confiscated prior to boarding. ;)

jim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jim said...

you know what's really gonna happen after all this fuss and dust has died down.

The project will proceed as planned.

Its not rocket science. YOu PA nimby's can't make it go away any more than I can "wish" 100,000 people out of SF. I feel you but You'll see. You have to choose the battles.

Alon Levy said...

Anon: the diesel commuter services in Japan are heavily subsidized by the electric services. JR East has been wanting to abandon the diesel short lines for a while. In Europe, those lines are heavily subsidized by HSR and by local taxes.

In Toronto, the diesel services come close to breaking even, but they raise so many environmental problems that local neighborhood groups are begging for electrification.

In Boston, the busiest lines are electric - again, you have electric subsidizing diesel. The same is true for Montreal, whose electric commuter line, Deux-Montanges, is the nation's busiest.

In New Jersey, the diesel regional rail line, the River Line, has laughably low ridership. So do the diesel commuter lines. In fact, the territory covered by diesel-only lines - Bergen and Passaic Counties - has only about a 20% mode share for commutes to Manhattan, whereas everywhere else in the region it's 80%. The lines that have both diesel and electric services are busier, but only in electric territory; ridership numbers drop like a stone beyond the end of electrification.

Rafael said...

@ Daddio -

"Proponents should admit that the impact IS greater than conventional rail and deal with it."

Greater in what way?

More noise? Unproven, even in the context of greater traffic volume. Bells and horns are going away, tracks will be continuously welded (no clackety-clack sectional crap), HSR track/rail geometry is much more precise than conventional rail (trains don't jostle around). HSR trains are a lot more aerodynamic than existing Caltrain equipment. Noise mitigation measures, such as sound deflector boards next to the rails and sound walls are very negotiable. For selected properties, so is triple glazing.

More vibration? Unproven. Both HSR and Caltrain EMU trains are much lighter than existing Caltrain equipment.

More pollution? False. Both HSR and Caltrain will be electric, eliminating sulfur-laden soot and toxic NOx exhaust from diesel locomotives.

More visual clutter? If the embankment is such a big deal, just leave the tracks at grade in Palo Alto and separate the remaining grade crossings via underpasses (traffic impacts, but you can't have everything). Use poles instead of headspans for the overhead catenary.

Greater safety hazard? Full grade separation means zero accidents at grade crossings.

Blight on real estate? Not necessarily. There are actually a lot of people who quite like the idea of having not just regional but statewide mobility without having to drive everywhere. They quite like the idea of not having to own a second or even a third car. This will be especially true if/when either oil prices or fuel taxes push the price of gasoline well north of $4/gallon again.

Sound to me like you are the one who needs to question your prejudices about what the real impacts would be!

"The speeds and security requirements make this a very different animal."

Yes, 125mph is faster than 79mph. So what, the alignment will be grade separated. The relevant parameters are noise and vibration, see above.

As for security (as opposed to safety), the right of way will be fully grade separated and fenced off (including at road/ped/bike overpasses). In addition, there will be CCTV surveillance of the entire right of way. Anyone hellbent on causing sabotage will find it much harder to gain access to the tracks and operators will have a much easier time detecting any malfeasance.

Carlos the Jackal did put a bomb on a TGV in 1983, killing 5 and injuring 50. However, there have been no similar attacks against any HSR trains anywhere in the world since. Instead, terrorists have targeted busy subways and commuter trains in Tokyo, Madrid and London.

No-one can guarantee that California HSR won't ever be a target of a terrorist plot, but then that's equally true of BART, Caltrain, LA Metro, Metrolink, NCTD, SD Trolley, SMART and Amtrak. Life is risk. It's not like no-one ever dies on the freeways or in an airplane crash.

Again, you are the one making uninformed assertions.

"The benefits of avoiding neighborhoods [...] are well worth it."

Yes, let's build all the Bay Area stations as far as possible from those who actually want to ride the train. Brilliant idea.

Train stations belong in downtown neighborhoods designed for the benefit of pedestrians. It's the cars that create asphalt jungles, not the trains!

Anonymous said...

Unproven. Unproven. Unproven. Well RAfael, the great news is, CHSRA is going to have to prove it - and its not on a per train basis, its the cumulative effect of the full projected volume and frequency of HSR running on 4-wide tracks versus no build. IN other words - current state. And make no mistake, they'll be required to use the same train schedule predictions for impacts as they will for revenue.

And. Stations in downtowns are not the same as tracks running through schools and backyards. If YOU and your HSR BUDDIES can't figure out how to get to stations in the middle of small downtowns without impacting neighorhoods - you're done. You might as well move to Europe for all the high speed train fantasies you so drool over. And by the way, you're after the ridership population of the Peninsula yet you seem to have absolutely zero understanding of the relationships between the suburbs and the downtowns and how many Pensinala residents are actually using the downtowns (which are frequently ghost towns for all their usefulness and accessibility.) What you fail to understand is that placing stations in the middle of barely accessible, and highly inconvenient peninsula downtowns like RC, Palo Alto, or even Mt.View at Castro IS placing the stations about as far away from the people who want to take long distance trips as possible.

The proper solution that will everyone, including CHSRA, billions, and YEARS worth of delay, will be to terminate in SJ, and use Caltrain as a feeder connection. The only sensible solution.

Peter said...

@ Anon 8:53

Wow. Downtown Palo Alto is a ghost town? I guess you've never been there. It's a university town, for Pete's sake. Downtown Palo Alto around the station appears to be booming, and for some reason HSR will strangle this or something? I don't understand your angle.

It's staggering how much Palo Alto has to gain from HSR, and how irrationally they're fighting it. I wouldn't be surprised if HSR decided not to give Palo Alto a station, just to spite them for all the needless and useless trouble they're trying to stir up.

Palo Alto should be lobbying heavily to be the Peninsula station... Instead they're invoking the bogeymen.

dave said...

@ anonymous 8:53

Keep dreaming, everything you said is based on your own assumptions and beleifs, not on fact. Rafael just gave you a list of facts.

If you want to lie to yourself that's fine. HSR is getting built as planned.

dave said...

@ anon 8:53

Palo Alto is no ghost town when it comes to the Caltrain station.

Anonymous said...

Terminate HSR in SJ.

Peter said...

Terminate HSR in Gilroy!

Altamont Lives!

Anymore random comments we can make? Or are we going to make substantive contributions now?

Joey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jim said...

I went to PA just to look at it. It was not a ghost town.
I rode the caltrain down just to see the row. 99 percent of the row and the adjacent neighborhoods looked like blight. Anything would be an improvement.
Locals already flock to caltrain stations for trains.
Locals who traveling througout the state will be able to go to the nearest train station downtown which will be much easier then taking 101 to sfo and parking a half mile away.

Joey said...

Terminate HSR in SJ.

Of course, because effectively killing ridership just because a few communities can't get over their irrational fears about the impacts is clearly the best way to build a transportation system.

jim said...

for those who think people won't get out of their cars and use hsr to go on family trips and other reasons video

jim said...

wow that was a pretty good video.

dave said...

@ Jim

That was a good video! Shows you how HSR in California is. If Amtrak can get very high ridership on all three lines with it's slower service. Then High Speed will do even better!

jim said...

I don't know where the deniers get the idea that people won't ride the train for this that and the other. I see who rides everyday - exactly the people they say won't ride. It's like some people live in this other reality. have they been outside?

Anonymous said...

Just one day prior to this strange post by Robert (why's he so worried about a small handful of Nimby's in Palo Alto??) on October 12th, Governor S. signs Ashburn bill requiring CHSR o supply a new business plan every two years (with public input). Is this a non-event? Weird that we find no discussion on that event, which seems much more significant than the opinions of a few city council members in Palo Alto. Strange - what Robert and Rafael find important.

Peter said...

I think the business plan bill is in fact an non-event, given that they are about to release a new business plan in December, and released the last one a year earlier. So, now they're required to prepare one half as frequently as they are already doing?

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 8:53am -

I have no problem with your demand that CHSRA and Caltrain prove the changes they end up proposing will not result in e.g. sound exposure levels above those the law says must be tolerated in residential neighborhoods.

I do have a problem with commenters like Daddio ignorantly asserting that the results are already in.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

the Coast Daylight needs to run from Emeryville or even San Jose down to LA.

During the remodeling period, PCJPB will need to host a new service on the Caltrain tracks like it needs another hole in the head.

Adirondacker12800 said...

In New Jersey, the diesel regional rail line, the River Line, has laughably low ridership.

9,000 passengers a day is low compared to the Lexington Ave IRT. Not bad for a line that connects the huge metropolis of Camden to the even bigger Trenton through low density green leafy suburbs with trolleyless trolley cars on a single track.

What you fail to understand is that placing stations in the middle of barely accessible...

Are you defining "barely accessible" as "I can't park directly in front of everything"? Or is it a a case of "No one goes there anymore, it's too crowded" ?

will be to terminate in SJ, and use Caltrain as a feeder connection.

Okay. Use Caltrain. How many more trains do they run to serve the thousands of people who will be getting on and off HSR in San Jose? If they leave the tracks just as they are that means many more trains going through the grade crossings. So there will be demands for grade separations. Grade separations mean faster trips for local passengers. Which means more trains. Which means more grade separations. Which means more passengers. It finally gets to the point where the passing sidings all connect up to one another and there's a four track fully grade separated railroad. So you have a diesel powered four track Caltrain. Which because of the noise and fumes generates demands for electrification. Once Caltrain is electrified the HSR trains can go all the way to San Francisco. So "terminate in San Jose" results in a four track electrified Caltrain that also has HSR trains. How much different is that from the current proposal which is four track electrified Caltrain that also has HSR trains?

Or alternately electrify Caltrain on the existing tracks. HSR can then go all the way to San Francisco. Electric trains run faster than diesel trains. Which attracts more local passengers. Which means there are demands for more grade separations. Which speeds up the trip, Which increases demand..... So you end up with a four track electrified Caltrain that also has HSR trains. How much different is that from the current proposal which is four track electrified Caltrain that also has HSR trains?

jim said...

@rafael Rafael said...
@ jim -

the Coast Daylight needs to run from Emeryville or even San Jose down to LA.

During the remodeling period, PCJPB will need to host a new service on the Caltrain tracks like it needs another hole in the head.


rafael, I'm not the one making the decisions ( ha, if only) caltrans and amtrak along with the communities involved, have their plans. talk to them about it. Many people around here are wondering when the trains will come to sf again.

Alon Levy said...

9,000 passengers a day is low compared to the Lexington Ave IRT. Not bad for a line that connects the huge metropolis of Camden to the even bigger Trenton through low density green leafy suburbs with trolleyless trolley cars on a single track.

Camden and Trenton are both large secondary downtowns. You'd expect a light rail line there to have ridership in the same ballpark as one connecting Jersey City, Hoboken, and Union City.

And no, 9,000 per day is low, period. What is it higher than - a tourist trolley in Flagstaff, Arizona?

Anonymous said...

Anon: the diesel commuter services in Japan are heavily subsidized by the electric services. JR East has been wanting to abandon the diesel short lines for a while. In Europe, those lines are heavily subsidized by HSR and by local taxes.

More careless exaggeration. And so all of a sudden we are expecting commuter rail to make a profit? What, are you planning to rescind the taxes supporting Caltrain?

Electrification is great, but it isn't a panacea or absolutely required. It doesn't pay for itself, else many systems would have electrified over the years.


In Toronto, the diesel services come close to breaking even, but they raise so many environmental problems that local neighborhood groups are begging for electrification.

Nonexistent environmental problems. The local neighborhood groups beg for them primarily out of snobbery, not necessity. No children are dying from diesel trains, but electrification would be a bit quieter, slightly faster, have less fumes, and lower operation and maintenance costs. Nice, but not necessarily a cost justified investment, especially when the majority of their commuter rail lines have only rush hour service. Most of those neighborhood groups want electrification because of perception and quality of life dreams.


In Boston, the busiest lines are electric - again, you have electric subsidizing diesel.

An odd assertion, since MBTA's commuter rail service is 100% diesel. Pull facts out of your rear much?


The same is true for Montreal, whose electric commuter line, Deux-Montanges, is the nation's busiest.

Out of what, about a dozen total commuter rail lines in Canada? Quite the impressive sample size. Are you sure about cause and effect?


In New Jersey, the diesel regional rail line, the River Line, has laughably low ridership.

Again an odd assertion, considering that weekday ridership is close to the initial design capacity. 9,000/day is pretty good for a start up commuter rail style service (Though it is technically a diesel light rail line.)


So do the diesel commuter lines. In fact, the territory covered by diesel-only lines - Bergen and Passaic Counties - has only about a 20% mode share for commutes to Manhattan, whereas everywhere else in the region it's 80%. The lines that have both diesel and electric services are busier, but only in electric territory; ridership numbers drop like a stone beyond the end of electrification.

More mumbo jumbo. Ridership drops on every line the further out you get, diesel commuter rail service goes to far more than just those 2 counties, diesel service can only run Hoboken not to Manhattan so of course the mode share will be lower. That has little to do with the superiority of electrification's characteristics, but rather route structure and geography. Not really relevant to SF-SJ. I saw a butterfly this at dawn, does that mean it made the sun come up?

Note the ignoring of Chicago, where the largest growth for years has come on non-electrified commuter rail lines. Again, that is because of geography, development patterns, service patterns, and demographics, not electrification. The point being that electrification is in no way a necessity for the survival of commuter rail service. No, survival depends on a willingness to continue the taxes that subsidize such service, with or without electrification. Other than perhaps a poorly planned startup service, I've seen no indication of public sentiment for ending established commuter rail systems anywhere in the country. (Thuggish scare tactics by gov't officials to cut such essential services first as a blackmail attempt at raising taxes are just that, tactics, they have no intention of actually caring out longer than as a stunt, because permanent cessation will get them booted out of office next election.)

Anonymous said...

BTW, Alon Levy, my quips are meant in fun. I appreciate your passion for transit and HSR, having read your comments on numerous boards. However sometimes assertions, conclusions, and things presented as fact are off the mark, hence my responses. Nothing personal, I'm just snarky by nature.

Anonymous said...

What, are you planning to rescind the taxes supporting Caltrain?

There are no taxes supporting Caltrain. One of the biggest problems with Caltrain is the lack of dedicated funding (a la the BART sales tax), so Caltrain must beg for funding each year from the general fund of the three counties.

Alon Levy said...

More mumbo jumbo. Ridership drops on every line the further out you get, diesel commuter rail service goes to far more than just those 2 counties

Okay. Look at station by station ridership on the LIRR, Metro-North, and NJ Transit. The drop in ridership at the end of electrification is sudden, even on lines with through-trains to Manhattan.

Anonymous said...

Nice, but not necessarily a cost justified investment, especially when the majority of their commuter rail lines have only rush hour service.

Plenty do. Caltrain is not one of them. Caltrain's line (only counting the portion that would be electrified SJ-SF, not south of SJ) has very steady demand coming from both ends and the middle at most times of the day. Sure, it peaks at commute times, but in BOTH directions, and even then doesn't peak nearly as bad as BART or most other actual commuter rail systems (ACE, for example).

Really, Caltrain is less of a commuter rail line than BART's Pittsburg line east of Oakland, the Fremont line south of Oakland, or the Pleasanton line east of Oakland.

Rafael said...

@ Alon Levy -

correlation is not the same thing as cause and effect.

Perhaps those electrification projects were scoped to include only the sections where ridership was already high and the higher acceleration possible with electric trains was needed to exploit the possibility of raising it further, thus making better use of the sunk cost of the track infrastructure.

Just sayin'

Alon Levy said...

Rafael, those electrification projects are mainly pre-Depression; they predate the current settlement patterns. If anything the electrified stations should have seen declines in traffic. For example, Croton-Harmon's economy collapsed when the New York Central folded; it's still the busiest station on the Hudson Line.

mike said...

Palo Alto in Santa Clara? mea culpa But culturally it belongs in San Mateo. .

Too funny. At least you have a sense of humor. Try making that argument to the election board though.

Adirondacker12800 said...

Camden and Trenton are both large secondary downtowns.

If you want to go to a dollar store or a government office building. One of the major complaints about the Trenton Transit Center is that it isn't "downtown" you have to get on a bus to go "downtown". Otherwise there isn't much in either though Camden is beginning to attract riders to the last stop - the Entertainment Center. The $20 parking fee probably has a bit to do with that.

You'd expect a light rail line there to have ridership in the same ballpark as one connecting Jersey City, Hoboken, and Union City.

If the places it connected had the same population, same demographics and parking. Camden is the poorest city in the US. Median house price in Camden is $48,983. No I didn't drop a digit, houses are selling for under fifty thousand dollars in Camden, some of them with views of the Philadelphia skyline. Median in Trenton is $130,000. What's the median house price in Jersey City? How about Hoboken? Ever tried to park in Jersey City, Hoboken? The big park-n-ride lots at the HBLR station just off the NJ Turnpike have a bit to do with it's ridership - suburbanites drive to the cheap parking lot at the Turnpike exit and use the trolley to the dense parts of Jersey City or to Hoboken. That people in Hudson county can't find parking and therefore live without cars has a bit to do with it too.

What is it higher than - a tourist trolley in Flagstaff, Arizona?

In very round numbers the River line carrys: roughly a quarter of the ridership of the Hudson Bergen Light Rail; roughly the same as the trolley car ridership in Cleveland; roughly half of what Newark carries but traffic and parking in Camden and Trenton are much easier than in Newark; roughly half of what Charlotte carries but Charlotte doesn't have NJTransit trains and buses to compete with either; roughly two thirds of what they carry in New Orleans; more than the Sprinter line in San Diego county. It's not the Green Line in Boston but it has a respectable level of ridership.

The drop in ridership at the end of electrification is sudden, even on lines with through-trains to Manhattan.

It's more a function of where the people are or where the forest starts whichever way you want to look at it. Explain why ridership is higher on the Raritan Valley line, all diesel line that terminates in Newark compared to the Gladstone branch which usually uses electric trains and has service to Penn Station and Hoboken. Keep in mind that the Gladstone branch is more or less up the hill from the Raritan Valley Line and that if you are in Mountainside it's toss up whether New Providence or Westfield is closer.

It doesn't pay for itself, else many systems would have electrified over the years.

It does, it takes a while though. So when management goes to the board and says "Lets spend great big gobs of money for three to five years on something that will make the line faster and cheaper to run once we replace all the expensive locomotives" the board says "No" or "NO"

electric trains was needed to exploit the possibility of raising it further, thus making better use of the sunk cost of the track infrastructure

Intially it was put in because New York City said "No more steam trains in Manhattan" Since diesel trains hadn't been invented yet they had to use electric trains. All the stuff that was added afterward was because electric trains are so much cheaper to run than steam trains. There's stuff on Long Island that was added after diesels became an option, in the context of grade separation projects. That was done because the line was getting so busy they needed to grade separate. As long as they were doing that they put in level boarding, electrification was a small part of the whole project. Sorta like the cost of electrification on the Peninsula will be a small part of the project's cost.

Alon Levy said...

Explain why ridership is higher on the Raritan Valley line, all diesel line that terminates in Newark compared to the Gladstone branch which usually uses electric trains and has service to Penn Station and Hoboken.

The parts of the Raritan Valley Line that get high ridership are located south of the common Morris and Essex trunk line rather than the Gladstone Branch, and get less ridership. The part of the line that competes with the Gladstone Branch has low ridership.

Anonymous said...
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Joey said...

Of course, because high-speed rail lines and nuclear power plants are exactly the same thing.

Seriously! HSR is a minor visual impact, probably about the same noise levels (maybe even less if sound walls are used), better traffic flow and lots of economic development. If they were planning on bulldozing a large strip of houses to build a rail line with big, smelly, loud freight trains running day and night then maybe I could understand, but the paranoia and ignorance associated with this whole matter is out of control.

Anonymous said...

" but the paranoia and ignorance associated with this whole matter is out of control."

And your smug arrogance continues to be annoying.

Joey said...

I'm sorry. It's just ... frustrating. The comments by many of the candidates show zero willingness to cooperate with CHSRA to come up with a design that can work for everyone (CHSRA has shown repeatedly that this is not the case on the other end), even if this tells a different story. What gets me is that many people in Palo Alto and a few other peninsula communities act like high speed rail is some sort of monster whose only purpose is to destroy their community, to cut through without bringing any benefits to the locals, while ignoring the benefits of better service (both CalTrain and HSR) and grade separations, not to mention the economic development and convenience it will provide to the entire state (and economic development, like recession, tends to propagate everywhere).

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 5:12pm -

I deleted your comment because it contained an F-bomb. Seriously, folks, mind your p's and q's here please.